The key to effective child discipline is the implementation of immediate, powerful, and consistent consequences. A spanking can serve as a meaningful negative consequence in cases of undesirable behavior, but it tends to be most useful – and necessary – when a child is under 3 ½ years of age. That’s because reasoning and taking away privileges simply don’t work with very young children.
With kids from three to five years of age, parents can use spanking and time out as part of a comprehensive discipline plan, but they should also begin to work with other types of consequences, such as taking away privileges. If mom and dad rely solely on one method, it will become less and less effective as a child grows and matures. For many school-aged children, the removal of pleasures or privileges is actually more “painful” than a spanking.
Generally speaking, it’s our view that corporal punishment should be applied only in cases of willful disobedience or defiance of authority – never for mere childish irresponsibility. It should never be administered harshly or impulsively. We also believe that spankings are not appropriate for children 15 to 18 months old or younger. And spanking an adolescent is almost always a serious mistake.
It’s extremely important that parents use proper technique if they are going to spank their children. Give your child a warning before each spankable offense. If he deliberately disobeys, inform him of the upcoming spanking, escort him to the designated room, and mete out the punishment. Typically this would involve one or two swats on the buttocks (note that while there may be a transient redness immediately following a spanking, it should never be done in such a way as to bruise a child). Follow up the spanking with a brief review of the offense. At all times parents must be guided by the need to balance sensitivity and love with the appropriate measure of firmness.
If your child is out of control, we suggest that you repeat the spanking procedure up to three times. Then hold the child tightly in your lap, facing forward, until he or she calms down. This may take five or ten minutes.
For more information about the appropriate use of spanking, call our Counseling department.
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Approaches to Discipline